AOL, CompUSA Strike Marketing Deal

Computer retailer CompUSA and AOL Time Warner’s online service America Online reached a new cross-promotional alliance on Monday, aimed at expanding both companies’ reach.

Financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.

The deal with Dallas-based CompUSA, one of the largest domestic computer retailers, aims to broaden AOL membership through promotions in all of CompUSA’s 218 stores.

At each CompUSA location, America Online will receive signage and subscription signup kiosks. Special offers from CompUSA and AOL at the stores will aim to encourage shoppers to sign up for AOL, though the companies did not reveal details about what the offers would be.

AOL also will receive in-store signage promoting its various related products, like AOLTV and AOL Anywhere wireless products.

Under the alliance, which names AOL Time Warner’s America Online service as the retailer’s preferred interactive service, CompUSA also will promote America Online in its offline advertising.

“This relationship provides us with a great opportunity to introduce CompUSA’s millions of customers to all the benefits of AOL and the Internet,” said America Online chief executive Barry Schuler. “By combining the strengths of our two strong consumer brands, we will make it even easier and more convenient for people to take full advantage of both CompUSA’s and AOL’s products and services.”

Meanwhile, Dulles, Va.-based America Online, will promote CompUSA across its Web brands, including AOL, AOL.COM, CompuServe and Netscape.com. In addition to advertising, CompUSA will be promoted in the “Shop@” e-commerce areas in these properties.

“Working with AOL, we will be creating compelling new offerings for our customers, while bringing CompUSA’s great selection of online merchandise to the millions of users of the America Online brands,” said CompUSA CEO Hal Compton.

Monday’s marketing alliance builds on a 1999 agreement that saw CompUSA discounting PCs sold with AOL or AOL-owned Compuserve online services, when users agreed to a three-month subscription to either service.

CompUSA also promoted AOL by selling “optimized” PC packages — with keyboards featuring one-touch access to AOL, for instance — and by offering AOL training classes through its in-store education centers.

“The coupling of AOL’s leadership in interactive services with CompUSA’s strength in retail and customer service provides us both with opportunities to offer real value and convenience to our customers,” Compton said.

The move comes as CompUSA has been stepping up its interactive marketing efforts. In early March, it began using mobile content distributor AvantGo to carry wireless coupons. (Users were expected to bring in their handheld device and show the coupon to the cashier for a discount.)

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